Opinion: Measure A will give kids education and child care from the start

The ballot initiative will generate $140 million per year to enroll thousands of children ages 0 – 5 in child care and preschool and get them Kindergarten-ready.

Working as a teacher for almost 20 years and having a child of my own, I know that raising kids can’t be done alone, especially in those early years of a child’s life. I was fortunate to find a preschool next door to the middle school where I taught and to see how my son thrived in a safe, loving environment where he developed the necessary skills to prepare for him for kindergarten and beyond.

Unfortunately, the rising costs of child care, housing, health care and other living costs mean many children and families in Alameda County are missing out on the quality child care and early education that are critical to toddler, student and family well-being. Just 44 percent of Alameda County’s children are entering kindergarten ready for school. Many families are spending more on childcare than the cost of college tuition. And more than 7,000 children in our county are waiting for a spot in a safe, affordable, child care and early education program.

The child care and early education crisis has teachers across Berkeley alarmed and ready to take action. We know access to quality early education is vital in the first five years of a child’s life when 90 percent of brain development occurs. We see how children who miss out on those early foundational years of development and learning struggle in the classroom. The equity gaps that start early only widen in our education system.

Educators also witness firsthand how access to quality child care allows parents to find stable jobs that make it possible for them to be more involved in their child’s education and development. As many parents are spending 25 percent of their incomes on childcare and struggling to make ends meet, it creates stress for the whole family and for many of our students.

This is why I support Measure A, and why the Berkeley Federation of Teachers has endorsed this June 5 measure that will expand access to childcare and pre-school for low and middle-income families across the county. Measure A is projected to generate $140 million per year to help us enroll thousands of children ages 0 – 5 in child care and preschool. It will enhance early education programs to meet unique needs of communities and address socio-economic disparities. It will also help us retain and recruit the quality childcare workers we need to educate our children and help these professionals live, work, and serve in our community.

My child may long be out of those 0-5 years but as I think about another school year wrapping up and the many Alameda County toddlers who could be transitioning into preschool, pre-K or kindergarten in the coming months, I know we must work together to ensure they get the best start on their educational paths. Let’s invest in our children, our community and education system now. We can do this by voting YES on Measure A and ensuring all children have access to safe, quality child care and early education.

Cathy Campbell is President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and spent 18 years as a middle school teacher.